Grassi Lakes Trail, Canmore

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You only have to glance at the parking lot, to see that the Grassi Lakes Trail is one of the most popular places to hike in Canmore.  As I made my return from Spray Lake Reservoir to Canmore, I decided to check out the trail — but it wasn’t as thrilling as I had hoped.

In the picture above, you can see more than just a lot of cars.  Take a look at the mountains: on the right, you can see a road carved out of the mountainside.  This is the dirt road that eventually leads to Spray Lake Reservoir.  You’ll also notice a pipeline running down the hillside — it funnels water down the hill to a power plant.  Next to the pipeline, there’s a waterfall that’s the centerpiece of the Grassi Lakes Trail.

The Grassi Lakes Trial isn’t terribly long or terribly steep.  There are two paths — an easy one (a jeep road) and a rougher, steeper one (seen here).  I chose the more challenging route, but it was still an easy hike.  Most of the way, the trail was surrounded by trees, so the views weren’t spectacular…

… until shortly after passing this distinctively curved tree.  Moments later…

… a window opened up, revealing the town’s reservoir (this is the lower lake, filled with water that passed down the pipeline and through the power plant).

A short distance further, and the view improved again.  At this spot along the trail, I could clearly see the power plant, as well as the city of Canmore in the distance.  Up ahead…

… was the waterfall.  There wasn’t a great place to take a picture, though — thanks to trees in the foreground, power lines overhead, and the poor position of the sun (that’s right, the sun did come out for just a moment).

After the waterfall viewpoint, the trail became a whole lot steeper, as it climbed up the hill towards the top of the waterfall.  At first, I started to trudge along, but then I realized where I was going.  The Grassi Lakes Trail ends at the reservoir along the dirt road — where I had just been, less than an hour earlier. All that effort to get to the top of the hill wouldn’t have meant a thing — I wasn’t going to see anything new if I continued.  So, I turned around and backtracked to the car, somewhat disappointed that the trail hadn’t led somewhere more exciting.

From downtown Canmore, it’s fairly easy to find the road that leads up to Spray Lakes, but it would be difficult to explain, since the street names change several times as you leave downtown.  From Main Street, head towards the mountains and follow the flow of traffic.  You’ll cross the Bow River, turn left onto Three Sisters Drive, then right onto Spray Lakes Road.  Before making the big climb uphill, a sign will point you towards a side road, that leads to Grassi Lakes Trail.

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